Keeler Gardens Wins Pollinator Habitat Grant

Have you heard the news? Keeler Gardens has won a grant to build a pollinator habitat! The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation has awarded us up to $10,000 toward the creation of a native pollinator habitat to provide environmental education opportunities for students, and all community members. We will offer visitors to the habitat an experience with Illinois native plants in a year-round refuge for pollinators, that will perform from early spring through late fall. Here is a before image of the space we will be preparing this spring for installation, hopefully, early this summer.

This "before" image of the site for the planned Keeler Gardens Pollinator Habitat shows the parkway at Keeler Gardens in the early 2018. THe parkway is mostly grass with two green ash trees and a few existing plantings.
Keeler Gardens Pollinator Habitat “Before”

We are so excited and are moving forward rapidly. The first step is a design. We created this preliminary design and await approval. All plantings are label by number. “E” plants are already part of the space, and will be incorporated into the habitat design. New plantings are color coded by season, purple for early bloom, grey for mid-season bloom, and yellow for late blooms. Greens denote grasses (light) or shrubs (dark). Outlines indicate the height of full grown plants from thin (12” minimum height) to thick (4-6 ft maximum height).

The design plan for the new Keeler Gardens Pollinator Habitat shows both existing and proposed plantings. Existing are label by number with “E” to denote they are already part of the space, grouped mostly at the top of the design (east side) and will be incorporated into the habitat design. New plantings are drawn as circles, color coded by season, purple for early bloom, grey for mid-season bloom, and yellow for late blooms. Greens denote grasses (light) or shrubs (dark). Outlines indicate the height of full grown plants from thin (12” minimum height) to thick (4-6 ft maximum height). New plantings are scattered throughout the design to fill the space. Also included in the design are proposed structures like boulders, benches, water features, and trellises.
Keeler Gardens Pollinator Habitat Proposed Plan

Also included in the design are proposed structures like boulders, benches, water features, and trellises. Stone will be used for edging and as steppers, and will be added at installation to accommodate the design as it evolves.

Here are a few of the plants we hope to include, with their identifying number referenced on the design:

3 Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)
5 Cream Wild False Indigo (Baptisia leucophaea (bracteata var. leucophaea) (NGN))
6 Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis (NGN))
7 White Wild Indigo (Baptisia leucantha (NGN))
8 Common Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis (NGN))
15 Kobold Gayfeather (Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’)
16 Rose (Swamp) Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata (NGN))
17 Common Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata (NGN))
18 Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum (NGN))
19 Anise Hyssop (Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’)
20 Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica (NGN))
21 Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
22 Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii)
23 Turtlehead (Chelone glabra (NGN))
24 Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)
25 Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
26 Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
27 Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea (NGN))
28 Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis (NGN))
29 Monkey Flower (Mimulus ringens (NGN))
30 Violet Bush Clover (Lespedeza violacea (NGN))
31 Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum (NGN))
32 Pasture Rose (Rosa carolina (NGN))
33 American Hazelnut (Corylus americana)
34 Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis (NGN))
35 Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)

We will continue to report on progress with the project, community events in support of the effort, with updates throughout the spring and summer. Follow us here on our blog, on our Facebook Page, and sign up for our newsletter to stay in touch.

Flower Arrangements at Keeler Gardens

Flowers and Foliage on Saturday, March 10, 2018 at 1:00 p.m.

Join us at Keeler Gardens for an afternoon of flowers and foliage. We will have an abundance of dried flowers and branches for you to choose from, like eucalyptus, yarrow, birch, dogwood, and some unique accents, too.

Groups of eucalyptus branches dyed in rich colors of mocha latte, burnt auburn, and deep iced blue.
Bunches of dried eucalyptus in colorful choices
Two bunches of yarrow flowers, dried and dyed a perfect candy-apple red sit in front of thick weathered grape “vine” branches.
Bunches of minute yarrow flowers form a stunning red cluster

Although there is no formal registration, please do RSVP as we only can accommodate 20 participants, and consider a suggested donation of $20.

One large star frame lightly wrapped with vines accompanies three smaller stars, wrapped densely, all sparkling with festive lime-green glitter.
Star shaped accents covered in bright lime-green glitter

RSVP at our Facebook Event Page here. Also make sure to follow @KeelerGardens on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates on this event and other ways to connect with nature.

A multitude of accents are presented for a natural display including dried lotus flower seed pods, pine cones, and faux pomegranate.
A myriad of seed pods and other accents, made from lotus flowers, conifers, and more.

And here is a little example, one of several arrangements we put together that you can see at Backlot Coffee in Old Irving Park.

We look forward to seeing you on March 10 at Keeler Gardens!

A sweet cluster of dried botanicals including green yarrow, chocolate-colored eucalyptus, yellow flower buttons, and green-flocked birch branches, all in a miniature off-white rippled vase.
A small combination of dried botanicals

Keeler Gardens Welcomes Interns From Chicago Tech Academy

Real-World Work Experience Internships


We are proud to welcome SIX interns from Chicago Tech Academy. Instead of us telling you about them and their school, we are going to let them tell you a little about themselves, the internship program, and Chicago Tech. So, without further ado, here is Eric to let you know a little bit about himself and Chi-Tech.

High school intern seen at the back of Keeler Gardens working on placing the rain barrels as he braves the snow and keeps working.
Eric working on irrigation project

My name is Eric and I am a senior at Chicago Tech. Currently I’m taking the school’s Introduction to Engineering class and a music class called Beginning Guitar. One thing I am hoping to get out of my internship at Keeler Gardens is to learn more about the basics of engineering. Another thing I enjoy doing at Keeler Gardens is inventory projects and the irrigation project.

Our school is Chicago Tech Academy. The school’s mission is to get all the students ready for college through four years of attendance. The school offers great clubs and very engaging classes. One club that really stands out to me personally is Young Men Leadership. The purpose of the club is to teach the young men how to be leaders and specifically leaders in the school. The school’s main focus is on technology. Our school is unique in that everything we do is Project-Based-Learning, with a strong, and deep educational foundation. Another great thing about Chicago Tech is it offers a great class called Entrepreneurship where they teach us as students to become business owners and to learn more about the different types of incomes in business.   Chicago Tech is very small compared to other high schools in Chicago, but that’s not such a bad thing because it gives the students more one on one time with teachers when they need the extra help after school or during class.

Frank, one of our Chi Tech Interns, takes a break to pose with Shadow, Shadow is a friendly Russian Blue that appreciates the extra attention.
Frank’s favorite part of his internship is the cats, specifically shadow.

My name is Frank, I’m a senior at Chicago Tech and have seen many students and teachers come and go throughout our school and I can honestly say it has been an honor to have been taught by great teachers and alongside other great, prosperous students. I cannot wait to graduate from our school, but I can say that I will miss going to school and seeing my favorite teachers and classmates. The things I like about my internship is that I am exploring Biology and Botany. The thing that I love about Keeler Gardens is that we have great cats to keep us company throughout the day.

In his blue sweatshirt our art intern takes out a pencil and focuses sketches new ideas for a Keeler Gardens logo. Some of his designs incorporate Keeler Gardens name into nature, like the branches of trees or in a flower bed.
Luis working on potential logos for Keeler Gardens.

My name is Luis. I’m a senior at Chicago Tech and I have attended for all four of my high school years. I am a contemporary artist. My favorite class is art. The reason I chose Keeler Gardens is because they have a lot of art projects to do and I can learn how to promote a business on social media. I want to learn more about how I can promote my original artwork.

Workman and intern look out french doors at Keeler Gardens. Workman is pointing up towards the needed repair and intern is looking and listening intently.
Keeler Garden’s Handyman Rob shows Cottrell next repair.

My name is Cottrell Hopson, I am a senior at Chicago Tech Academy. I like to try new things, that’s why I am interested in Keeler Gardens. They offer experiences that are completely new to me, like honing steel and organizing material. I also want to learn more about how plants grow.

My name is Andrew Gonzalez, I am a senior at Chicago Tech Academy. I love to play soccer, play my guitar, carve wood, work with my hands, and listen to and mix music. I intern at Keeler Gardens and one of the projects I will be working on is creating a blog post about the partners of Keeler Gardens.

Intern, Kaitlyn, poses for a pic in front of the camera where she is sitting at her Chrome book researching local partners for Keeler Gardens.
Kaitlyn takes a break from researching our partners.

My name is Kaitlyn, I’m a senior at Chicago Tech. I have had such a fast high school experience and I’m excited but in shock that this is my last year . Throughout high school I have had ups and downs and I did a lot of things that I never thought I would be interested in doing, like dissecting a pig or a frog, and learning about how to improve the environment. That part is related to my Internship because plants help the environments, I like my internship because it’s fun and we are learning about more than I thought we would and I can’t wait to learn more about plants and other natural things!

There you have it. Over the month of February this crew will be hard at work designing art projects, taking care of social media, photography, organizing, and planning projects. Make sure to keep an eye open especially on our social media channels as the students will be posting updates on their progress over on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and maybe they’ll show us how to use Snap Chat too!

Keeler Gardens along with our interns would like to thank two of our partners, Backlot Coffee and LaVilla, as they have been subsidizing and donating food and coffee for our interns throughout the month.

If you would like to learn more about Chicago Tech and their internship program you can email me directly at

Please come out and visit us and our interns at Keeler Gardens, and take the time to #ConnectWithNature today.

Six seniors from Chicago Tech Academy pose on the front steps of Keeler Gardens for a photo. All are smiling even though it is cold and the snow is over a foot deep.
Six interns from Chicago Tech take a break to pose for a group shot.


Thank You!

Two community members are bending down to inspect pepper and tomato plants in Keeler Gardens. There are a few red tomatoes and peppers visible, and the background is full of lush plants and flowers, along with two white plastic chairs.

Happy Thanksgiving

Thank you!

Keeler Gardens has been offering programs to connect with nature for about a year now and we felt it was time to give you an update along with our heartfelt thanks.

Year One at Keeler Gardens

We have had a very active year speaking at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, the Chicago Botanic Garden, and Lincoln Park Zoo. We have had programs in schools, camps, and with cultural groups. We’ve opened Keeler Gardens to the community for both private and public events and supported nearby churches, the local garden club, and our community members.

Awesome time with @core4skills. Kids worked in the #dirt and potted #seedlings for the #community.

A post shared by Keeler Gardens (@keelergardens) on


We’ve partnered with other groups to expand our offerings, we are a demonstration site for the Bionutrient Food Association focusing on rebuilding our soil for nutrient dense produce; we will host bee hives for Sloanstead Honey building our natural habitat, and we are one of the first organizations to provide opportunities through the youth-oriented Yolobe app piloted at Schurz High School. We are also developing our internship program at several different levels.

We had a great time with the #schurzhighschool #botany class, teaching photography Monday. Blog post soon! #biophilia

A post shared by Keeler Gardens (@keelergardens) on

With every program and event we have given participants a chance to improve their focus and knowledge base, relieve stress, better the environment, and build a network.

We hope that you will join our email list, we send out invitations to events and periodic updates, and we will be sending out a reminder about #GivingTuesday for those of you that can support our capital campaign.

Keeler Gardens’ Capital Campaign

With the multiple matching opportunities this year, every contribution can make a difference.

Here’s how…

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Everyday Amazon Smile








Keeler Gardens has partnered with Amazon Smile. Support us when you shop on Black Friday. Go to and Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible Amazon Smile purchases to Keeler Gardens whenever you shop on Amazon Smile. That’s right, after you sign up, throughout the year whenever you shop at Amazon just go through Amazon Smile and Keeler Gardens will get the donation.

#GivingTuesday Facebook Donation Match

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving, this year Tuesday, November 28, 2017, is considered Giving Tuesday or #GivingTuesday on social media. This year Keeler Gardens will be focusing our donation efforts for #GivingTuesday on Facebook. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation have teamed up to offer a $2,000,000 donation match through any donations raised on Facebook. In addition all credit card fees will be waived by Facebook for the day.

And we also have an exciting announcement. Several events have coincided for an incredible start to our Capitol Campaign. A very generous donor has offered to sponsor a matching challenge for individual donations of $1000 up to a total of $5000. So if you or someone you know donates $1000 through the Facebook Donate button on #GivingTuesday, your  donation could turn into $3000!

Please remember that the matching grant through Facebook will only last until the two million dollars runs out. With so many worth while charities taking part please consider donating early at 7:00 a.m. central time when the program begins.

Holiday Celebration and Capital Campaign Kick Off

Please join us on Saturday, December 9, 2017 at Keeler Gardens for our Holiday Celebration. All details can be found on our Facebook Event Page here. This is a non-ticked event and all are welcome.

We are so fortunate to have a space we can share with local and extended communities and we hope you will join us in our efforts to continue to offer everyone a chance to improve their mental, physical, and emotional health through a strong connection with nature.

With our sincere thanks we also offer our programs to you. Please take advantage of what Keeler Gardens brings to the community, stop by, spend a little time with us.

Bloomin’ Bucks

Brent and Becky’s & Keeler Gardens

Keeler Gardens is officially part of the Bloomin’ Bucks fundraiser at Brent and Becky’s.

This is a where GG, our lead horticultural specialist, orders many of the bulbs for Keeler Gardens. If you place your bulb order through this link and choose Keeler Gardens, NFP from the list…

25% of the sale is donated to Keeler Gardens!

This is an excellent opportunity to help support our community programs!

Please help us spread the word by sharing this information with your friends and family. You can even download a flyer here to help spread the news.

If you have any questions feel free to email me at

Photos From the April Instameet

Taking Pictures in the Rain

(Press Play if you would like a little music while you read)

After a week of unseasonably warm, Chicago, April weather, Mother Nature delivered a traditional April day: rainy and cold. But that did not stop the photographers.

Taking pictures, drinking tea, more pictures, and loosing feeling in our trigger fingers! And even a few tours of the gardens for our new visitors. Was it worth it? We think so, but decide for yourself. Take a look at some of the pictures.


Here are a few from our @KeelerGardens Instagram account

First pic of today’s Instameet. #smokebush #keelergardens #connectwithnature

A post shared by Keeler Gardens (@keelergardens) on

#lamium from the front garden. #keelergardens #connectwithnature

A post shared by Keeler Gardens (@keelergardens) on

Working hard while we play. #keelergardens #peonies #ants

A post shared by Keeler Gardens (@keelergardens) on

And one from my personal account @xperientialed.

Enjoying the great weather at the #keelergardens instameet. #hellebore #connectwithnature

A post shared by Ed Caplan (@xperientialed) on

Plus here are a few from one of our guests.

And for you, our loyal readers, here are a few that we did not post anywhere else.


We had so much fun we will have to do this again.  Based on so many conversations about cameras, technique, and even some technical details we are tweaking the program a little. Make sure you sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook to be the first to know about the next Photo Day at Keeler Gardens.

Thanks for connecting,



Our First Programs at Keeler Gardens.

Spring is Springing

(Press Play if you would like a little spring music while you read)

Are you enjoying this wonderful spring weather? We are, and so are the tulips and other spring bloomers. Flowers are not the only thing in bloom, we are preparing for our first programs here at Keeler Gardens.

Close up of about two dozen Stresa tulip yellow tulips with brushes of pink on the outside of each petal. In the foreground to the is the base
‘Stresa”tulips bloom in the back garden.

Instameet, Sunday, April 30 at 1:30 PM

We are excited that as we welcome the warm weather we have our first two Keeler Gardens program offerings. The first is the Instameet day at Keeler Gardens. What is an Instameet? Instameets are group get-togethers to take pictures to post on Instagram. Although we are using this term, we will do much more. At 1:30 PM on Sunday, April 30th we invite you to come out and take pictures at Keeler Gardens. You don’t have to use a mobile phone, nor do you have to post your pictures on Instagram. Just spending a half hour taking pictures of the garden is a wonderful way to connect with nature. If you so choose, you can share or post your images online. We hope you do, so we can all enjoy your pics. We will be using the hashtag, #KeelerGardens so we can all view the photos during and after the event.

Our executive director, Ed Caplan, stands in a rain coat with smart phone in hand capturing the bright yellow forsythia on the front deck of Keeler Gardens. The cloudy rainy day creates a wonderful environmental contrast for the photo.
Ed connecting with nature.

All levels of photographers are welcome. If you have questions, big or small, about your camera or taking photos come early at 1:00 PM and we’ll be happy to walk through the basics and answer any questions. Let us know you’re planning on coming by RSVP’ing through the Facebook Event Page.

Family Event at Fannie’s, Sunday, May 7 at 4:00 PM

Logo for Fannie's

Fannie’s is a wonderful café in Jefferson Park. The owner, Stephanie, has offered her space for a family day just in time to prepare for Mother’s Day (hint, hint dads!). Make sure to follow the event on our Facebook page here for all the details. What we can tell you right now is it involves seeds and journals. (We’ve said too much!).

Scrapbooking accessories and accoutrements including small and large quotes such as “Cats speak language with their tails.” “Come forth into the light of things let NATURE be your teacher.” The background has various textured papers from watercolor to repeating prints. There are also small trinkets such as butterflies, flowers, and stars.
Various ways to adorn your garden journal

Project WILD

Recently I was certified as a trainer of Growing Up WILD, Aquatic WILD, and Project WILD. These are environmental education curriculum for youth of all ages. From early childhood through elementary and high school, the programs are written to be age specific, with educational learning standards in mind. Upon the completion of this training Keeler Gardens can officially train teachers and other community members on this program.  Make sure to follow us on Facebook and sign up for What’s Growing on, our mailing list, so you are the first to know when we set the date this summer for the Project WILD training.

Two adults sit on a bench in a display garden with three children. The man works with a boy and girl of 5 and 6 years old. The women with her camera keeps an eye on the 3 year old who is more interested in climbing the bench.
Connecting children to nature.

Thank you again for all of your support. Keeler Gardens is here to help you and the rest of our community connect with nature. Thank you for spreading the word by sharing this update and our other posts. Click on these links to let us know if we will be seeing you here at Keeler Gardens on April 30th for the Instameet, at Fannie’s on May 7th for the Family Event, or click here to sign up for What’s Growing on for updates on the Project Wild Training.

Thanks for connecting,

The Evolution of a Garden Featuring Keeler Gardens

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Keeler Gardens was fortunate to be the feature of a discussion on the transformation of a city space into an urban oasis. The presentation was almost an hour long and included some wonderful before and after imagery, along with some of the why’s and how’s of the garden’s evolution.  Today we have for you the audio track of that presentation and a link to the actual “slide show”, so if you wanted to follow along you can.  We will update this post once we have synchronized the audio and slide show.

If you would just like to listen we included here in the post a few of the images from the presentation to give you some of the visuals.

Very soon we will be adding a page to our website that will take you through the transformation, image by image, a permanent addition to our website that can be enjoyed for the experiences, and as a continued view into how Keeler Gardens grows every season.

Live(ish) From the 2017 Chicago Flower & Garden Show

Old 110 photo that has been partially bleached away of a man sitting on an orange couch next to a dog. The man's head did not make it into the picture but the black dog looks great.

Mobile Photography in Your Garden

A student reviews the apps on her smart phone during a session on mobile photography. She appears to be eager to learn as her friend clasps her phone with some apprehension.
We all have cameras in our pockets. Do we know how to use them?

This past Monday I had the chance to present on this topic on the Gardening Live Stage at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show.  The full video is below for those of you who were not able to join us.  The goal of the session was to help more people find a meaningful way to connect with nature.

One way that I connect with nature is through photography.  I have been doing so since I got my first 110 camera when I was five years old.  Very quickly I learned I was better at taking pictures of nature than people, although I did have a lot to learn.

Old 110 photo that has been partially bleached away of a man sitting on an orange couch next to a dog. The man's head did not make it into the picture but the black dog looks great.
Luckily Ed got better as a photographer.

Fast forward to today and we all have portable cameras in our pockets.  What better way to stop and connect with nature than to take a picture.  And not just snap a quick photo, but to stop, enjoy what we are experiencing, and then take a picture.

During the session I broke it down into simple steps to help us take photos we can be proud of and want to share with others.  Some of the tips were:

  • Rule of thirds (don’t center the subject)
  • Use your camera’s grid
  • Keep camera in Auto mode, then switch to HDR

What’s Next? Instameet @ Keeler Gardens

Put your skills to use, meet with other photographers, and learn.  Whether you have your smart phone, a DSLR, or an old 35mm camera, all are welcome.  We will meet at Keeler Gardens at 1:30 PM on April 30th.  If you need some help, come early at 1:00 PM and we can get you ready for the day.  For more information and to RSVP head over to our Facebook Event Page.  (If you don’t have Facebook, you can always send me an email for more details).

In my wilderness work there was a common phrase, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.”  Show us your pictures by using the hashtag #KeelerGardens so we can see your awesome pics on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

Keeler Gardens at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

If you are following us on Facebook you already know that we are visiting the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival.

As of this blog post we have reported from the following gardens:

We still have a few more gardens we will report from so make sure you are following us on Facebook and in the upcoming weeks we will put all of the videos together on YouTube into a nice playlist to have the whole week in one place. Make sure you subscribe to our newsletter so you will be the first to know when they are posted.

In addition, make sure you are following us on Instagram as we are highlighting different topiaries each day from around the festival. In the upcoming weeks we will add the photos to a gallery here on our website.

You can watch the Facebook Live videos on our Facebook Page and let us know if there are any other gardens you would like to see.

One last note, the Chicago Flower and Garden show is coming up soon. I, Ed, will be presenting at 2pm on Monday, March 20th on Mobile Photography in Your Garden, and we will also be presenting at 5:00pm on Friday, March 24th on the evolution of Keeler Gardens. We hope to see you there. Make sure to come up and say hello.